Need more information about InterExchange Work & Travel USA? You’ve come to the right place. Here are some helpful links and documents about our program.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a J-1 Visa?
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa (J) non-immigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. The visa is administered by the U.S. Department of State, which is the same department that oversees the US Embassies and Consulates around the world.
What kind of jobs are available?
Our participants fill a variety of entry-level positions, including retail, wait staff, counter staff, maintenance staff, housekeeping and amusement park positions.
Am I eligible for the program?
To participate in InterExchange Work & Travel USA, you must be a full-time college or university student between the ages of 18 and 28, proficient in English (both written and spoken), able to work for at least three months, enthusiastic, motivated, and mature.
How much does it cost?
Program fees vary from country to country. The InterExchange representative in your home country will be able to provide you with details about the costs. You will also need to pay the cost of your transportation to and from the U.S., accident and sickness insurance (InterExchange will provide you with access to discounted insurance), housing, and personal expenses.
How much will I earn?
Employers in our program are required to pay you the same wage that they would pay employees from the U.S. Currently, the federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 per hour, but your pay rate may be higher, depending on where you work and the type of job you perform.
How do I apply?
What We Do as Your Sponsor
InterExchange will sponsor your visa and provide program support during your time in the USA. Specifically, this means providing you with:
- The documents you’ll need to apply for your visa;
- Accident and sickness insurance;
- Opportunities to experience U.S. culture during your program;
- 24/7 customer support, as your safety is our top priority.
Can I get more than one job?
Yes, you are allowed to work at more than one job on the Work & Travel USA program. Please remember that your primary commitment is to your first employer.
How long before my program begins can I enter the USA?
You may not arrive more than 30 days before the program start date shown on your DS-2019, provided your school calendar permits.
What am I allowed to do during my time off?
You are allowed to do what you like with your free time, provided you obey U.S. laws and Work & Travel USA program rules. There may also be additional rules for your employee housing that you must follow. You are strongly encouraged to learn about American culture by participating in cultural activities offered by your host community and surrounding area.
How can I participate in the Work & Travel Year USA program for citizens of Australia and New Zealand?
If you are a citizen of Australia or New Zealand, you can work for up to 12 months in the United States.
- Between the ages of 18 and 28.
- Enrolled full-time and pursuing studies at accredited post-secondary, classroom-based, academic institutions physically located * outside of the United States and have successfully completed at least the first year of postsecondary academic study, or graduated within the last 12 months.
- Proof of sufficient funds – at least $2,000 USD in your bank account.
What if I have not received my Social Security card?
If six weeks have passed and you have not received your card, call the Social Security Administration at 1.800.772.1213. Have your Social Security receipt ready. If you have additional questions, contact InterExchange. Important: Your Social Security number is yours alone. Do not allow others to use your number. Record your number in a safe place in case your card is lost or stolen. Protect both your card and your number to prevent misuse.
What should I do if I lose my passport or other documents?
If you lose your passport or visa, contact your embassy or consulate as soon as possible so that they can assist you in obtaining new documents. A list of embassies and consulates is included in your Inside the USA guide.
If you lose your DS-2019 Form, please contact InterExchange during regular office hours (9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time), and we will provide you with a replacement form for a $10 fee (not including cost of shipping).
If you lose your I-94 Admission/Departure Card, you will need to contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for a replacement card.
If you lose your Social Security card, you do not need to replace it as long as you know your Social Security number or have a photocopy of the card. If you would like a replacement card, contact the Social Security Administration.
What is SEVIS?
SEVIS is an abbreviation for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, a database maintained by the U.S. government to keep track of the addresses of students and exchange visitors. You MUST register in SEVIS within 10 days of your arrival in the United States. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires registration. If you do not register in SEVIS, you may be subject to arrest or deportation.
If I change my address, do I need to register my new address in SEVIS?
What if I want to stay and work longer?
You are only allowed to work during the dates that are listed on part 3 of your DS-2019 Form. Under no circumstances can the dates or your J-1 Visa be extended. You are allowed to stay in the U.S. and travel for 30 days after the dates listed on part 3 of your DS-2019, but you are not allowed to work during this time. If you have any questions regarding the dates you can work, or the dates you can stay in the U.S., please call InterExchange at 1.800.621.1202.
What if I would like to work longer than my commitment date, but there is not a position with my current employer?
Please call InterExchange Work & Travel USA at 1.800.621.1202. We will try to match you with another employer who is looking for staff. Please note that, in most cases, employers will only hire students who are able to work for at least three weeks.
What should I do if I am not meeting my employer’s expectations?
First, talk with your employer. Often, problems are a result of miscommunication. If you are unable to resolve the problem, please call InterExchange for assistance. We will be happy to help you in any way we can.
What if I’m injured on the job?
All job-related injuries are covered by Workers’ Compensation insurance. Your employer should refer to their Workers’ Compensation policy.
How do I book my flight home? How do I change my flight?
In general, you should contact your airline directly for flight changes and availability. In some cases you might have special instructions on how to book or change your ticket that were provided by our cooperator in your home country. Please refer to the program materials that you received before departure.
Social Security Number
Why is a Social Security number needed?
Social Security numbers are generally assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. They are used to report your wages to the government and when filing your tax return. Also, when opening up a new bank account, most banks require either a Social Security number or proof of application for a Social Security number.
How long will it take to receive my card?
Your card should arrive in the mail within four to six weeks of your application date. It is important that your mailing address that you use in your Online Social Security Number Application is accurate to ensure that your card gets delivered to you. If you change your mailing address after you submit your application to the Social Security office, it is your responsibility to inform the Social Security Administration of this change by calling or visiting any Social Security office. If you do not currently have a valid mailing address, you may have the card sent to InterExchange Work & Travel USA at: 100 Wall Street, Suite 301, New York, NY 10005, and we will forward it to you at a later point in time.
If I am a returning J-1 and have already been issued a Social Security number, do I need to reapply?
No, you do not need to apply for a new number. If you do not remember your number or have lost your card, you will need to apply for a replacement by visiting your local Social Security office, which can be found by visiting: www.ssa.gov/locator.
What if the Social Security Administration won’t accept my documents?
The Social Security Administration will not accept a student’s application and documents if you have not yet registered your housing address in SEVIS. We recommend going to the Social Security office at least three to four business days after initially registering your housing address in SEVIS. The Social Security Administration recommends waiting at least 10 days after arriving in the United States before applying. If they do not accept your application, take detailed notes of what the Social Security officer says and report this information to InterExchange by calling 1.800.621.1202.
What if my Social Security card never arrives?
If you put your employer’s address in your Online Social Security Number Application, check with them to ensure that they have not received your card. The Social Security Administration can be contacted at: 1.800.772.1213. An update on the application status will usually be given over the phone. In the event that there is an issue with the application, take detailed notes and call InterExchange to help resolve the issue. You can also reapply in person at your local Social Security office, which can be found at: www.ssa.gov/locator
What if I have difficulty using the Online Social Security Number Application?
The Online Social Security Number Application will speed up the application process when you arrive in-person to show the Social Security officer your documents and finish the application. If you are unable to submit your Online Social Security Application, you can bring a completed Form SS-5 (paper application form) with you to your local Social Security office.
What if I return home without receiving a Social Security number?
As long as you have earned income in the U.S. you are still required to file a tax return for the year(s) during which you worked. If you have not been able to receive an SSN but do need to file a tax return, you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) alongside your tax return. Please view our resources on Filing Your Tax Return Once You Return Home for more information.
Can I get back the taxes that were taken out of my paycheck?
You may be able to get a refund for some or even most of the money you paid. Your refund depends on how much money you made while you were in the U.S. It also depends on how you filled out your W-4 Form.
When can I file my taxes? / How can I get my refund?
You won’t be able to file your taxes until you receive your W-2 Form. At the beginning of the year, your employer will send you a W-2 Form (your employer is required by law to mail your W-2 to you by February 15th of the year following the year wages were earned). Before leaving your job, give your employer a self-addressed envelope so that he or she can mail you your W-2. If you have received your W-2, please read our Filing Your Taxes page for more information.
If I am eligible for a refund later, why do I have to pay taxes at all?
The government calculates tax deductions in advance, but it is ultimately determined by how much money you actually end up making. If the government overestimated how much you would earn, you may be eligible for a refund. If the U.S. Government underestimated how much money you would earn, you will likely owe money.
If you don’t pay taxes, you are breaking the law. If you owe the government money at the end of your stay, you may not be able to return to the U.S. in the future. Filling out your W-4 Form properly will ensure that you do not owe the U.S. Government any money. The taxes will be taken out of each paycheck. If you have paid too much in taxes, you can get it back by filing a tax return once you have returned home.
What if I return home without receiving a Social Security number?
As long as you have earned income in the U.S. you are still required to file a tax return for the year(s) during which you worked. If you have not been able to receive an SSN but do need to file a tax return, you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) alongside your tax return by following the steps below.
Note: If you have a Social Security Number you will not need to apply for an ITIN
When mailing your application, alongside your Federal tax return, make sure to follow the IRS instructions and include the following:
- 1040-NR (Your Federal tax return)
- ITIN application (Form W-7, signed). The reason should be “B – Nonresident Alien Filing a U.S. Federal Tax Return” in the case that you have been unable to attain an SSN but need to file a tax return.
- Attach a certified copy of your passport.
If including a photocopy of their passport, it must be certified by one of the following:
- Certified Acceptance Agent or IRS official
- The governmental department that issued the identification document (e.g., Home country passport office).
- The United States Embassy or Consulate (make a reservation before visiting).
What is a deductible?
This is the amount you must pay out of your own pocket towards medical expenses before the insurance company is obligated to pay – outside of the USA, this is also known as “excess”. Under your insurance plan, you will have a $150 deductible for a doctor’s office visit. You have a $350 deductible for visiting the emergency room (unless you are admitted overnight).
What is pre-certification?
Some medical procedures need to be pre-certified, meaning that you or your doctor must notify the insurance company within 48 hours, or as soon as reasonably possible in the following cases:
- Hospital admission
- Inpatient or outpatient surgery
- Emergency medical evacuation
- Emergency medical reunion
- Trip interruption
- Return of mortal remains
When I telephone the doctor to make an appointment and they request the name of my insurance, what do I tell them?
The plan utilizes the UnitedHealthcare (UHC) Network, so when calling or talking with providers, please mention this name or show the provider a copy of your insurance ID card with the UnitedHealthcare (UHC) logo on it for network recognition. Alternatively, or if any issues arise, please contact Seven Corners for assistance.
Can I go to any doctor?
Yes, you are free to visit any provider you wish. However, the benefit of staying within the network is that all bills and invoices may be settled without any payment (apart from your deductibles) on your part.
What does my insurance not cover?
Common exclusions on your insurance plan include dental (teeth), vision (eyes), pre-existing conditions, birth control pills, long term treatment and regular exams/check-ups. Please visit the Student Zone for a copy of your insurance brochure that will contain a full listing of the plan exclusions.
What if I lose my insurance card?
What do I need to take with me when I go the doctor’s office?
You should take with you:
- Your insurance card
- Passport (to use as identification)
- DS-2019 Form (just in case they want to see it!)
Where do I find my individual insurance policy number?
Your insurance ID card contains both your Group ID (this is the same for all participants under the plan) and your certificate ID, which is unique for you and is your individual insurance policy number.
What is a claim form?
Who has to file a claim form?
All Work & Travel USA program participants who go to the doctor must file a claim form.
When should I file the claim form?
As soon as possible after going to the doctor’s office.
Where do I send my claim form?
If my medical provider sent my bill directly to the insurance claims department, do I still need to fill out a claim form?
Yes, the claims department still needs a claim form from you in order to identify the medical bill they received from the medical provider.
What does the insurance company need from me in order to process my refund?
What should I do if the medical provider sent the bill directly to me and not to the insurance company?
If you received a medical bill, fill out a claim form and submit it with your bill to the insurance company.
How do I buy prescription medication in the United States?
How can I check the status of my claim?
Finding a summer job in the U.S. can be challenging. If you are thinking about participating in our program, consider our Job Placement program. We will connect you with potential employers and take care of the hiring process for you.
Most students interested in living and working abroad need help finding a job. Each year, InterExchange matches thousands of international students with employment opportunities across the U.S.
The first step is to speak with an agency in your home country. Once you’re accepted into our Job Placement program, you will have access to our Online Matching System. You can view hundreds of job listings from different host employers across the United States. You can apply to these positions based on your preferred job type and location. We encourage you to be open to new experiences and consider all kinds of opportunities in different areas of the U.S.
Once a host employer makes a job offer and you accept the position, InterExchange will:
- Prepare you for what to expect while working and living in the U.S.
- Process your J-1 Visa paperwork
- Provide information on applying for a Social Security number when you arrive in the U.S.
- Assist with travel arrangements to your host employer
- Provide you with housing information from your host employer
- Arrange your accident and sickness insurance
- Support you every step of the way!
- While you are in the U.S., you’ll be able to contact staff at InterExchange if you need assistance or general support. We’re always here to help!
Types of Jobs Available in the U.S.
InterExchange Work & Travel USA works with a wide range of employers all over the country who host short-term, seasonal staff. A variety of job opportunities are available to our participants, including positions in:
- Bed & Breakfasts
- Amusement Parks
- Ski Resorts
- Retail Stores
Self Placement Program
If you are a participant looking for a job in the U.S., below are resources to assist you with your job search. Before applying for any position in the U.S., please be sure that you understand InterExchange’s job verification process and review the list of prohibited jobs in the following section.
Resume and Cover Letter Samples
When seeking temporary employment in the U.S., you should provide a resume and cover letter for potential employers. A resume is a written document (similar to a curriculum vitae) that highlights your relevant work experience, skills, and education for the advertised position. A cover letter states your interest in the job and highlights key skills and experience that are detailed in your resume.
The samples below are only provided to guide you in composing these professional documents. You should personalize the information so it’s specific to your background and experience.
Job Search Engines
There are many online job search engines in the United States. The following websites allow you to post your resume, search listings by industry, and find job hunting advice and tips for cover letters, resumes, and interviewing:
Tips on Applying
Follow these guidelines when you apply:
- Make a list of companies or job postings that interest you.
- Ensure that you meet any requirements in the job descriptions and that you have researched the company and its location.
- If you’re applying for a specific position, include all the requested documents and follow any application instructions listed in the job posting. Follow all application instructions carefully.
Tips on Interviewing
If an employer responds to your application to schedule an interview, make sure you are ready to discuss your skills and experience, especially the experiences and skills you have listed in your resume and cover letter. To prepare for your interview:
- Gather as much information as possible about the company and write a list of questions that you’d like to ask your interviewer. Many of your questions will be discussed throughout the interview, but you should prepare enough questions to learn more about the company and the position. American employers expect and want applicants to ask questions about the job.
- Practice your interview with a friend or family member. You’ll find a list of potential interview questions and other interviewing tips on https://www.livecareer.com/interview/questions.
- On the day of the interview, be on time and be prepared! If you are interviewing via phone or webcam, test your equipment in advance so that you are sure you know how it works. Also, be sure to find a quiet and private spot so that your interview will not be interrupted and there will be no distractions.
- Always send an email within 24 hours of your interview to thank the interviewer(s) and to reaffirm your interest in the position. Make sure you have the contact information (names, titles, and email addresses) for all of your interviewers.
InterExchange must vet all initial, replacement, and additional jobs based on U.S. Department of State regulations and guidance to verify that participants will be pursuing the purpose of the J-1 Visa program. The following positions are not allowed on the InterExchange Work & Travel USA program:
- Positions that could bring notoriety or disrepute to the Exchange Visitor Program;
- Sales positions that require participants to purchase inventory that they must sell in order to support themselves;
- Domestic help positions in private homes (e.g., child care, elder care, gardener, chauffeur);
- Pedicab or rolling chair drivers or operators;
- Operators or drivers of vehicles or vessels for which drivers’ licenses are required regardless of whether they carry passengers or not;
- Positions related to clinical care that involve patient contact;
- Position in the adult entertainment industry (including, but not limited to jobs with escort services, adult book/video stores, and strip clubs);
- Positions requiring more than four hours of work between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.;
- Positions declared hazardous to youth by the Secretary of Labor at Subpart E of 29 CFR part 570;
- Positions that require sustained physical contact with other people and/or adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Universal Blood and Body Fluid Precautions guidelines (e.g., body piercing, tattooing (including henna), massage, manicure, hair braiding);
- Positions at businesses that offer body piercing, tattooing (including henna), massage, manicure, hair braiding;
- Positions that are substantially commission-based and thus do not guarantee that participants will be paid minimum wage in accordance with federal and state standards;
- Positions involved in gaming and gambling that include direct participation in wagering and/or betting;
- Positions in chemical pest control, warehousing, catalogue/online order distribution centers;
- Positions in the mobile amusement and itinerant concessionaires industries;
- Positions for which there is another specific J visa category (e.g., camp counselor, intern, trainee);
- Positions in the North American Industry Classification System’s (NAICS) Goods-Producing Industries occupational categories industry sectors 11, 21, 23, 31-33 numbers as outlined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including, but not limited to: construction (includes specialty trade contractors), mining (includes oil and gas extraction, support activities for mining), manufacturing (food manufacturing, textile mills, apparel manufacturing, wood product manufacturing, printing), natural resources (crop production, animal production, fishing, support activities for agriculture and forestry);
- Positions through employment or staffing agencies;
- Positions in kiosks or cart stands at malls;
- Positions in home-based businesses;
- Positions in warehouses or factories;
- Administrative positions handling sensitive/personal information;
- Positions as an independent contractor (1099 Form employee);
- Positions in fisheries;
- Positions in door-to-door sales or canvassing;
- Positions in industrial style/scale service sector (jobs that involve assembly lines, repetitive movement using heavy machinery, use of industrial size steamers/pressers and dryers, use of industrial chemicals, factory-like atmosphere);
- Position where an exchange visitor is solely responsible for the safety of others (e.g., as a lifeguard); does not have regular on-site or timely on-call supervision by the host entity and/or would be without reasonable time off for breaks and meals;
- Positions that are not compensated hourly (e.g. piece wages, stipends, etc.);
- Placements that employ the exchange visitor as a mover or in any position where the primary work duty is the movement of household or office goods
- Positions in waste management, janitorial, or custodial positions
- Position with a host entity that participates in the Summer Work Travel Program on a basis other than seasonal (e.g., for more than two seasons during the year, or that covers a total period of employment longer than eight months in a single calendar year);
- Locations where telephone and Internet communication is not accessible.
- The position offered must be seasonal. Employment is of a seasonal nature when the position is tied to a certain time of the year by an event or pattern and requires labor levels above and beyond existing worker levels.
- The position offered must provide opportunities to work alongside and interact regularly with U.S. citizens. Participants must be able to experience U.S. culture during both the workday portion of their Summer Work Travel program as well as outside of work.
- The position offered must not displace domestic U.S. workers
- The position offered must provide pay and benefits commensurate with those offered to their similarly situated U.S. counterparts and pay eligible participants for overtime worked in accordance with applicable State or Federal law.
- The location must contain suitable, affordable housing (e.g., that meets local codes and ordinances) and reliable, affordable, and convenient transportation to and from work
Important notes about Work and Travel in large cities
If a large city (e.g. Miami, New York, or Los Angeles) is submitted as a potential place of employment, the following must be demonstrated:
- The job is seasonal or temporary in nature.
- The employer has reasonably attempted to hire locals for the season and the placement will not displace U.S. workers.
- here is access to suitable, affordable, and safe housing
Your Housing Guide
Once you’ve confirmed that you’ll be visiting the U.S. on our Work & Travel USA program, you’ll need to find a place to live. Make sure you’ve read your job offer agreement closely to understand whether your host employer has arranged housing for you.
If your employer doesn’t arrange housing, you’ll be responsible for finding housing that is inexpensive, comfortable, safe, and close to your work site.
You’ll want to start researching housing options as soon as you know you’re participating on the program. The tips and resources on this page can help with this process. Once you’ve found housing, keep in touch with your employer and landlord to confirm your arrival date to the U.S. and the availability of your housing.
Contact InterExchange if you have any questions or concerns about the rental process, your lease, or if you have trouble getting your security deposit back. Be prepared to send us your lease and photos of your housing.
How to Find and Rent Housing
View the steps below to learn more about the rental process. Be sure to carefully read the rest of the housing resources on this page for more detailed information.
Use the resources listed in the Securing Housing section to find housing. You’ll want to avoid housing that requires you to sign a long-term lease. Be cautious if you see an ad that seems too good to be true or that requires you to wire money. Remember, your housing should be within reasonable distance to your employment site and in an area with regular, safe, and affordable transportation options.
2. Manage Expectations
Some areas may only have older accommodations available for rent. Kitchen facilities, furniture, Wifi, and other amenities such as cookware, cleaning appliances, and linens are not guaranteed. Research the area in advance – use Google Maps to view the property and area to see what transportation is available, request pictures in advance, and speak with former participants.
Once you have decided where you want to live, you may be asked to sign a lease. A lease is a contract between you (the tenant) and a landlord. Read the lease thoroughly, make sure you understand all of the terms before you sign it, and make sure the landlord has signed it. At this point, make a copy for your records. A lease is a record that you have rented a house or an apartment and offers both you and the landlord legal protections. If your landlord does not require a lease, you should request one. Learn more about understanding lease agreements.
Your landlord may request a portion of your rent in addition to a refundable security deposit, which may be due upon arrival. Please bring enough money with you to cover these costs. Information regarding the deposit should be clearly outlined in the lease and should include information about the return procedure, including when and how it will be returned. Your landlord may request the deposit before your arrival. However, it is never safe to wire money to someone you don’t know. If you cannot view the property in-person, ask someone you trust to go and confirm it’s for rent. This is a sure-way to confirm the legitimacy of the landlord and the property.
Upon move-in you should take note of any pre-existing damages and send an email or letter to your landlord with the information. Keep a copy for yourself. Be sure to also take pictures and/or videos of the damages and condition of the housing. If it’s not provided in your lease, ask your landlord for their full name, email address, and phone number, in case you have any issues with your housing.
6. Respect Your Housing
Don’t forget you are leasing your housing, you do not own it. It is extremely important that you treat it with care to ensure the return of your security deposit. Be respectful of your neighbors, and keep noise to a minimum to avoid any fines.
7. Paying Rent
Make sure you know when your rent is due to avoid late fees. No matter which way you pay whether it is via cash, credit card, or check, you should always get a receipt upon payment. Save the receipt for your records.
Arrange a walkthrough with your landlord. A walkthrough allows both you and your landlord to view the condition of the housing together. We recommend taking pictures and/or videos again upon move-out. If you move-out before the agreed upon date in your lease, be aware that you may forfeit your security deposit.
9. Return of Deposit
If your housing was left in good condition, you should receive your deposit back. If outlined in your lease, a portion of your deposit may be nonrefundable. Talk to your landlord before you depart the U.S. about when and how the deposit will be returned.
This list is not exhaustive and is only meant to summarize the rental the process.
Here are some vocabulary words that you will likely hear in your housing search:
The owner or manager of property such as a house or apartment that is being leased to another person, the tenant.
A legal contract that explains the terms for renting the housing.
A signed lease between the landlord and tenant that outlines the terms for renting the housing.
A non-refundable deposit means the security deposit money will not be returned to you.
The amount of rent money a landlord charges a tenant when he/she is only occupying a unit for a partial term (not a full month or week).
A refundable deposit means the money will be returned to you when you eventually move out, as long as you leave the apartment in good condition and per the terms agreed to in the lease agreement.
A “re-rent” fee is a fee that the landlord charges for finding another person to rent the property if the lease is broken or ended early.
Money that is requested by a landlord to secure a tenant’s place in the housing and to cover any potential damages caused by the tenant or failure to pay rent. Security Deposits can be refundable or nonrefundable and sometimes may cover other expenses incurred by the landlord.
Person living in housing owned or managed by the landlord.
Term of Length of Tenancy
How long a tenant is agreeing to stay in the housing.
Types of Housing in the U.S.
have more options, including apartment sublets, rooms for rent, homestays, and university-style dormitories.
Renting an apartment or house will provide you with the most freedom. A cost-efficient way to live in an apartment is to share it with other people. You agree to divide responsibilities and payment of rent and bills. If you decide to share an apartment, make sure there is enough space for every tenant to avoid overcrowding. Another option is to sublet an apartment from a tenant who leaves for a period of time – a few months or longer. You assume the responsibilities of paying rent and bills and the original tenant assumes all responsibilities under the lease. No matter which way you choose to rent, be sure to always get a signed lease that includes the names of all the tenants.
We advise you against signing long-term lease agreements. Depending on the housing arrangement you select, we recommend that you try to negotiate a shorter lease or a month-by-month lease. This is important in case you need to leave the U.S. early; there may be a fee for leaving before your lease ends, so be sure to discuss this before signing a lease or housing agreement.
To rent, share, or sublet an apartment, you are typically required to provide a copy of a photo ID, a letter from an employer with salary information, and proof of sufficient funds from home.
Dormitory-style apartments and university housing
Dormitories typically have a greater sense of community and social interaction and will allow you to meet other students. Most often, dormitory-style and university housing will require you to share a bedroom and bathroom with other individuals. Most dormitories also provide essential housing needs, such as furnished rooms, Internet access, kitchen, and laundry facilities, and, in some cases, even meals.
Homestays offer participants the opportunity to improve language skills and sample American culture in a unique way by living with an American family. Participants will typically have their own bedroom and arrange to take an allotted amount of meals with the family each week. Like any other type of housing, it’s important that you get the details of the arrangement before you sign any sort of lease or agreement. If you are a person who enjoys staying out late and inviting friends over, this may not be the best option.
Hostels are great for temporary accommodation while you look for something more long term. Hostels typically require you to share a bedroom and bathroom with other residents, but they also provide opportunities for meeting other young people and making friends.
Ready to get started? Keep the following information in mind as you look for housing and start viewing potential apartments or residences.
Resources – Where to Look
Start by talking to your employer about the area where you will be working and the neighborhoods they recommend. What are the best websites, newspapers, or other resources people in the area use to look for housing?
Dormitory-style apartments and university housing
The best way to find university housing is to do a Google search for universities in your host community. Contact the university directly to ask about seasonal housing.
Roommates can be found through word of mouth once you arrive in the U.S. or through websites such as Roommates.com. Some roommates like to write a contract in order to delegate all responsibilities and outline how space will be shared. Treat this contract as you would any other lease. Read it thoroughly, ensuring that you agree to and understand all of the terms.
Questions to Ask
- Cost of housing per week or per month?
- Cost of housing deposit? Refundable under what conditions?
- Is housing arranged by employer?
- If yes, employer-owned or owned by someone else?
- Is housing an apartment, house, or motel?
- Is cost of housing deducted from paycheck? If yes, pre-tax or post-tax?
- How many bedrooms?
- How many students per room?
- How many beds per room?
- Are male/females living in the same accommodation?
- How many people total will be living in the housing?
- Do tenants have a lease?
- Are utilities included?
- What are transportation options from housing to job site, city center, etc. ?
- Is it easily accessible?
- Cost of transportation?
- Will you need a bike or car or are most things within walking distance?
- Is transportation arranged by employer or by someone else?
Know your rights and what you’ve agreed to — read your lease!
Safety should be a high priority when looking for housing. The best thing to do is visit a neighborhood before moving there. If you are not able to visit a neighborhood, talk to your employer about the area and use Google Maps to see what’s around.
Many students share housing with others during their stay. Even though it is a good way to save money, it can also lead to overcrowded and unsafe living conditions. Exceeding the maximum occupancy of your apartment or house violates safety rules and increases the likelihood a fire. Please check your housing/lease agreement and occupy your living space accordingly. If you feel that your housing is overcrowded, please notify InterExchange immediately.
As you would with your own house, follow all fire safety rules. Ensure that your house is equipped with functioning smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher.
Common fire hazards include:
- Improper use and maintenance of gas stoves
- Electrical systems that are overloaded
- Flammable liquids
- Fireplace chimneys not properly or regularly cleaned
- Electrical wiring in poor condition
- Matches, lighters
- Electronic and electrical equipment
- Use of barbeque
Fire codes are adopted by the state or local jurisdiction. Contact your local fire department for more information.
Find out which utilities (heat, electricity, water, cooking gas, cable, Internet) you are responsible for paying, as it varies depending on the city and accommodation. If you are responsible for certain utilities, this should be outlined in your lease. You can get a list of local utility and cable companies from your landlord.
Average monthly housing costs depend on location, the type of housing, and what is included (furniture, utilities, etc.). Shared housing can range from $80-$120 per week, but the cost will vary depending on your location. To find the average rent price in your area, please check the Fair Market Rent cost or Rentometer.
You may find that the housing you’ve secured isn’t immediately available when you arrive in the U.S. You should come prepared to stay in a hostel for a few days until your lease begins.
A security deposit is a sum of money collected by a landlord that protects the rental property in case of any damage caused by the tenant. A security deposit can be between a week’s worth of rent to a month’s worth. In addition to the security deposit, the landlord may request a portion of the rent. Make sure you have enough money to cover these costs.
It is important to understand the terms and conditions under which the security deposit will be returned. Be aware that in some situations, a portion of the security deposit may be nonrefundable and used as a cleaning fee.
You will be able to find both furnished and unfurnished housing options in the U.S. A furnished room or apartment will often be more expensive, but it can also help to reduce the costs of purchasing furniture and apartment necessities after you arrive.
If you need to furnish your apartment, you can find inexpensive furniture and kitchen supplies at places like Walmart, Target, Ikea, or K-Mart. You can also find used furniture at local consignment shops and thrift stores.
Doing laundry in the USA as a participant is generally straightforward, but there are some differences and tips to remember.
- Most participant housing and apartment complexes offer laundry facilities, which are shared among the residents. You might find coin-operated machines or card-operated systems. You’ll need to speak with your employer or landlord to see what’s available.
- If your housing doesn’t provide laundry facilities, you’ll need to find a public laundromat. Use a search engine or map app with keywords like “laundromat,” “laundry,” or “laundry service” to find your nearest laundromat.
- Laundry rooms can get busy in the mornings and evenings, especially in shared housing or public laundromats. It’s a good idea to plan your laundry schedule when it’s less crowded to avoid waiting for machines.
- Be considerate of others when using the laundry facilities. Don’t leave your clothes unattended for too long, clean lint filters in dryers before and after use, and remove your clothes promptly to free up machines for others.
Overall, doing laundry in the USA as a participant is a learning experience, and it’s important to follow the instructions provided on machines and products. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to ask for help or advice from your employer, roommates, or the laundromat staff.
Avoiding Fraudulent Housing
Fraudulent housing schemes take advantage of people who aren’t prepared to identify fraud, especially on the Internet, so you must conduct your housing search carefully. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. This will allow you to see the property and meet your landlord/lady without requiring you to wire large sums of money to someone you have never met. If you absolutely must secure permanent housing before arriving in the U.S., it is recommended that you look for an established university or residence facility rather than an individual apartment owner.
Please follow the guidelines listed below to protect yourself from fraudulent housing.
- Do get a signed lease with the landlord’s full name and contact information.
- Do a Google search for the landlord and property address. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
- Do talk to former participants and your employer about potential housing.
- Do request photos of the property and view the property in Google Street View. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm it’s for rent. If you don’t know someone who can do this, wait until you are in the U.S. so you can visit housing locations yourself.
- Do be cautious of listings involving an agent or a lawyer or people who say they’re out of the country. Some scammers even create fake keys. Be skeptical, and don’t send money overseas.
- Don’t wire money to someone you don’t know. There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, or first month’s rent. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
- Don’t pay a security deposit or rent before signing a lease or seeing the property. It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen.
- Don’t give personal information out including your bank account or credit card numbers or Social Security number.
Check out the following websites for tips on avoiding fraud:
Also read this blog from another InterExchange participant who was the victim of a fraudulent housing offer from an agency in her home country.
Read our guide to Avoiding Fraud section in Safety & Wellness.
Understanding Lease Agreements
Once you have decided where you want to live, you may be asked to sign a lease. A lease is a contract between you (the tenant) and a landlord. A lease is a record that you have rented a house or an apartment and offers both you and the landlord legal protections. If your landlord does not require a lease, you should request one.
What’s typically included in your lease:
- Description or address of the premises being leased or rented
- Name and address of landlord
- Name(s) of tenant(s)
- Length of the tenancy/duration of lease
- Penalties for breaking the lease early
- Amount of security deposit and how it may be used and returned
- Rent amount
- Rent due date (including any grace period)
- Late rent fees
- House or apartment rules and acceptable use of the property
7 Leasing Tips to Remember:
1. Read carefully
Read your lease carefully and ask questions before signing.
2. Understand the lease duration.
- Your lease agreement will include a move in date and a move out date. Make sure that these dates are correct.
3. Understand if you can end your lease early.
- Are there penalties?
- Are you responsible for paying the remainder of the lease?
- Can your rent be refunded if you end your lease early?
4. Be cautious of “re-rent” fees.
- A “re-rent” fee is a fee that the landlord charges for finding another person to rent the property if you break the lease early.
5. Be careful about paying for the whole season upfront.
- Be cautious of lease agreements that ask you to pay for the whole season upfront or require payment in installments that are not on a weekly or monthly basis.
6. Understand the terms of security deposits.
- Is the security deposit refundable?
- Are there any mandatory cleaning fees or other fees that will be taken out of the security deposit?
- How and when is the security deposit returned?
If an inspection is required it is within the tenant’s rights to request this BEFORE they vacate.
Some lease agreements have a clause that states the security deposit will be withheld if you terminate the lease agreement early.
7. Keep copies of lease documents.
- Get contact information for your landlord – full name, phone number, and email address.
- Get receipts for payment of your security deposit and all rent payments – save these for your records.
- Keep a copy of your lease that is signed by both you and your landlord.
If a lease agreement is not provided by your landlord, you have the right to request one.
Other Helpful Tips
- Read your entire lease to understand what you are agreeing to and keep a copy for your records. Contact InterExchange if you have questions about your lease.
- Your lease covers the legal terms of your agreement.
- Keep a paper copy of your lease, and make an electronic version too.
- Your lease should state whether there are penalties for breaking your lease early. Be sure to carefully check the beginning and end dates on your lease.
- The safest way to pay your security deposit is when you’re already in the U.S. Never wire money to someone you don’t know!
- Your lease should explain any circumstances in which your security deposit would not be returned in full.
- For advice on how to be a good roommate, check out Do These Eight Things When Living With Roommates.
- Always keep proof of your security deposit and rent payments in case there is a disagreement with your roommates or your landlord.
- If your landlord wants rent before meeting you in person, it could be a scam. Contact InterExchange, and we can help.
- Be sure to make your landlord aware of prior damage to avoid a disagreement when you move out.
The information provided is intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions.
Rights, Protections, & Expectations
InterExchange makes it a priority to ensure that all our participants enjoy a safe, healthy and well-monitored cultural exchange experience in the U.S.
The following information describes a baseline for conduct that our participants can expect from InterExchange and their hosts as well as their own responsibilities during their visits to the United States through InterExchange programs. We’re happy to say that the majority of our participants and hosts regularly make an extra effort beyond these standards to create a truly memorable, life-changing cultural exchange experience for everyone involved.
During Their Programs, InterExchange Participants Can Expect:
- A safe, healthy and legal work environment.
- A safe, healthy and legal living situation.
- Opportunities to interact with Americans on a regular basis.
- Protection of their legal rights under United States immigrant, labor, and employment laws.
- Fair treatment and payment practices.
- Right to keep passport and other documents in their possession.
- Right to report abuse without retaliation.
- Right to contact the BridgeUSA Emergency Helpline of the U.S. Department of State.
- Right not to be held in a job against their will.
- Right to end their programs and return to their home countries.
- Right to request help from unions, labor rights groups and other groups.
- Right to seek justice in U.S. courts if warranted.
Participants Can Also Expect the Following Support From InterExchange Throughout Their Programs:
- Emergency assistance 24 hours every day.
- Serving as a reliable resource for general information.
- Resources and guidance to help them engage in cultural learning and American daily life.
- At a minimum, monthly contact and monitoring.
- Vetting and conducting due diligence to verify each host employer.
- Available staff with extensive international experience and language skills.
- Available staff who can provide support for special situations if needed.
- Acting as a neutral advocate to help resolve any disputes that occur.
- Accident and Sickness insurance that meets or exceeds J-1 Visa regulatory requirements.
Participants in Our Programs Acknowledge That:
- The primary purpose of InterExchange cultural exchange programs is to interact with U.S. citizens, practice the English language, travel and experience U.S. culture while sharing their culture with Americans.
- They will abide by the laws of the United States.
- They will abide by all rules and regulations applicable to U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor programs.
- They have not come on a J-1 Visa program seeking permanent residency or employment in the U.S.
- They are expected to follow the guidelines of employment provided by their host employer.
- InterExchange is their visa sponsor. A U.S. host employer or host family is not a visa sponsor.
- Any wages earned during the programs are only meant to help defray living expenses during the programs. Earning money is not the primary purpose of cultural exchange programs.
- Host employers and families may terminate their employment relationship with participants.
- Host employers and families do not have the authority to cancel the J-1 Visa. Only the U.S. Government or InterExchange has that authority.
- They must contact InterExchange in the event of an emergency or if any problems occur during the program.
- They will respond to all requests and inquiries sent from InterExchange.
- They are required to leave the United States at the end of their programs.
Know Your Rights
Fair Labor Standards Act
Summer Work Travel program regulations require that participants are compensated at the higher of the applicable Federal, State, or Local Minimum Wage (including overtime); or Pay and benefits commensurate with those offered to their similarly situated U.S. counterparts.
As of July 24, 2009, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour. Where state law requires a higher minimum wage, the higher standard applies. Employers try to keep housing and/or food costs as low as possible.
If you work over 40 hours per week, you may be entitled to overtime wages. Some states require the payment of overtime wages, and some do not. Please ask your employer if you have any questions regarding overtime pay. If you have a problem with an employer because of underpaid or unpaid wages or unfair termination of employment, please call InterExchange, and we will help put you in contact with the Department of Labor for the state you are living in. The Department of Labor in your state will instruct you on how to file a claim against your employer. InterExchange will provide assistance and/or any letters you may need to complete a claim form.
Review this informational pamphlet describing your rights while working in the United States. The U.S. government created this pamphlet in various languages at the prompting of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (Public Law 110-457), which reaffirms and strengthens the U.S. government’s commitment to fighting human trafficking and labor abuses in all their forms.
Among other protections, you have the right to:
- Be treated and paid fairly
- Not be held in a job against your will
- Keep your passport and other identification documents in your possession
- Report abuse without retaliation
- Request help from unions, immigrant and labor rights groups, and other groups
- Seek justice in U.S. courts
- For your safety, know the signs of human trafficking to make sure you don’t become a victim
Estimated Cost of Living
Congratulations on joining the InterExchange Work & Travel USA program!
Living in the U.S. can be expensive and it’s important to make necessary financial preparations before your arrival. As you research your host city, you will need to consider a range of possible expenses. Here we will guide you through creating a budget and provide advice for saving money throughout your program.
The majority of our participants spend between $3,500–$4,000 throughout their stay in the United States. We suggest that you budget at least $900 to $1200 to cover your initial costs and deposits when you arrive in the U.S., and to cover any emergency situations.
To give you some guidance on allocating your money during your time in the U.S., please review the estimated standard expenses for a single person during a typical work and travel program in the United States.
- Initial Expenses: $300 to $500 Average transportation cost from the airport to your host city and one week stay in a hostel or budget hotel.
- Housing: $125 to $150 per week Most landlords will require a security deposit equal to one month’s rent and the first month’s rent when you sign a lease.
- Utilities: $100 to $125 per month Gas, electric, phone, internet.
- Food: $100 to $250 per month or more Depending on how often you cook at home or dine out. Additional transportation: $50 to $100 per month Depending on mode of transportation in your local town.
Emergency Fund It’s always a good idea to have an emergency fund – that is, a savings account or travelers check where money is set aside in case you need it. Most U.S. checking accounts have an attached savings account where you can put a portion of your money or earnings. If your host company offers direct deposit (meaning your paycheck is automatically deposited into your account each pay period), you may be able to have a portion of your paycheck deposited directly into savings.
Stay on budget Once you have an idea of how much you will be spending each month, it’s important to stick to that number! When you’re in a new and exciting place, it’s tempting to overspend and splurge. Think about your needs versus your wants: paying your rent on time is a need, but buying a souvenir for your friend is a want!
Pay with cash, when possible It’s easier to see what you are spending when you pay in cash. It’s much more difficult to complete a big purchase when you are physically handing over the money as opposed to swiping a credit or debit card. Some small stores will have a minimum of $5 pr $10 to swipe your credit card. Make sure you have cash in hand.
Avoid ATM fees Plan ahead for your expenses. Many ATMs will charge you a fee (in addition to your own bank’s fee) when withdrawing cash, particularly if you have an international bank account. Check with your bank before arriving in the U.S. so you know ahead of time what these fees cost. It may be more cost-efficient to set up a U.S. bank account and use only that bank’s ATMs when you need cash. Please read our guide on How to Open a U.S. Bank Account.
Student discounts, coupons and deals You can get a student discount card or just look for student rates that are available for travel and entertainment. Be sure to bring your student ID card with you. Using coupons and deal websites can be a great way to save money.
Budget for your travels You will want to use the opportunity you have on the weekends or during the 30-day grace period at the end of your program to do some traveling. Look at your budget and think about how much you can afford to save up each month. If you make sure to save a little every week, you’ll be surprised how quickly your savings can grow.
Cost of Living Resources
Please visit the National Standard: Food, Clothing and Other Items section on the Internal Revenue Service’s website to learn more about the average cost of living in the United States. You can also compare the cost of living between your home city and your host city in the U.S. on these sites:
In general, with proper planning you will find that you can cover the most, if not all, of the above expenses with earnings from your primary employment.
What is Culture Shock?
As a Work & Travel USA participant, you’ll have an incredible opportunity to experience American culture by living and working in the U.S. and interacting with many different people. What you may find surprising is how diverse the United States is! We encourage you to embrace the diversity and make an effort to learn about the people that you meet and their customs and traditions.
Some of the customs here may seem odd or uncomfortably different from those of your home country. Being in a new and unfamiliar place can be challenging, even for the experienced traveler, and feelings of isolation and frustration can occur. This is totally normal and is often described as culture shock.
Common Signs of Culture Shock
- Feeling excessively homesick, resentful, tired, anxious, or isolated
- Sleeping a lot
- Writing or calling home very frequently
- Crying a lot
- Feeling resentful toward your new environment
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling reluctant to associate with new people or to speak English
Culture shock can happen suddenly, and it can make enjoying your new situation much more difficult. If you find yourself feeling out of place or sad, try to determine what the cultural differences are that are making you feel this way and consider different ways to overcome these feelings. Recognize that you’ll only feel this way for a limited amount of time and that you play a role in how long these feelings last. By overcoming culture shock, you’ll be better able to make the most of your experience in the United States.
Characteristics of U.S. Culture
Some American customs may seem strange to people from other countries, but familiarizing yourself with them may help you better adapt during your stay in the U.S. Here are some common characteristics of American culture:
- Being on time is important.
- Americans like privacy and personal space.
- Americans can be very direct and honest, even though it may seem rude to people from another culture.
- Americans may ask about how your day is going or how you are without expecting an answer.
- Americans wait their turn in lines.
- Americans value independent thinking.
- Americans like to joke, smile, and talk.
- Americans are concerned with personal hygiene and cleanliness. It is not unusual for them to bathe more than once a day.
Ways to Cope With Culture Shock
Keep an open mind and a sense of humor. While people in the U.S. may do or say things that people in your home country would not, that doesn’t mean they’re strange or unapproachable. Americans like to talk, laugh, and make jokes. Speak with your friends and your employer. They will be understanding and supportive. Try to make friends with other Americans as well as people from other countries. Try new things and try to appreciate the cultural differences you encounter!
Stay positive! Remember why you wanted to participate in the program in the first place. You came here to learn and experience new things! This may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so put yourself out there. If English is not your first language, try to speak it as much as possible. It might be difficult at first, but with regular practice you will learn more. As you learn, you will become more confident about interacting with your surroundings. Everything will get easier with time and practice. A new world of possibilities and experiences will open up for you.
Take Care of Your Health. Relax when you feel stressed by listening to music, taking a long walk, reading a book, or enjoying a hot shower. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Take vitamins to stay healthy, and wash your hands often. Consider writing in a journal to remember the best experiences and work through the difficult ones. If your symptoms persist or are more severe than the symptoms listed, ask your doctor or health care professional for advice.
Talk to Someone. When you’re feeling the stress of culture shock, it often helps to talk about these feelings. A friend, co-worker, colleague, or InterExchange staff member can help ease your worries just by listening.
Once you become more comfortable, you’ll be able to enjoy your time more and really take part in all the U.S. has to offer.
As always, whenever you need assistance, the InterExchange team is here to provide advice and support.
An Important Note For Non-Native English Speakers:
Always speak English during your program. You may be uncomfortable with your skills and even feel embarrassed, but you will quickly notice that people will be patient and positive when correcting your mistakes. Your English abilities will improve by understanding your mistakes. Everyone will admire you for your willingness and desire to improve.
The worst mistake you can make is to keep silent. Keeping quiet or sticking to your native language can further isolate and alienate you from your surroundings. Because English is spoken by everyone around you, speaking English will enable you to make friends with people from many cultures. These friendships are some of the most rewarding elements of the program, and are a great way to overcome culture shock.
Learn More About American Culture
InterExchange Cultural Compass contains lists of things to do in all 50 states as well as InterExchange staff recommendations for our favorite cities, sites, foods, activities and cultural traditions.
If you are coming to the U.S. on one of our programs, or are simply interested in visiting, Cultural Compass will get you started on your way to discovering the ins-and-outs and hidden gems of the U.S. Explore Cultural Compass with your host employer, new American friends and other participants on your program and select activities you can do together.
What is SEVIS?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a computerized U.S. Government system that collects and manages data about international students and Exchange Visitors during their stay in the United States.
SEVIS keeps track of all InterExchange Work & Travel USA students while they are in the U.S. It tells the U.S. Government where you live, where you work, and your legal status on the Work & Travel USA program.
Important SEVIS Information
All students must register within 10 days of arriving in the U.S. and check in every 30 days thereafter.
You can update your SEVIS information in your Online Application at app.interexchange.org. Your SEVIS dashboard will be available on your program begin date.
The begin and end date of your program is located in Box #3 on your DS-2019 form.
Failure to register or update SEVIS might:
- Delay your Social Security application and/or prevent you from receiving a Social Security card.
- Risk having your program terminated, which will require you to leave the country immediately.
- Jeopardize your ability to obtain another visa to enter the U.S. in the future.
If you arrive before the Start Date listed in Box 3 of your DS-2019 form, you will be unable to register online in SEVIS until your start date.
How to register in SEVIS
STEP 1: Log in your Online Application. You need to confirm your arrival to the United States before you can provide your U.S. Address.
STEP 2: Provide your U.S. address. You must give InterExchange the address where you live within 10 days of your arrival in the U.S.
Please follow the correct address format any time you are submitting an address or making any changes.
Line 1: Hotel, Motel, Lodge, or Inn Name (Optional)
If you are living in a hotel, motel, lodge or inn, please tell us its name. Not all addresses have a name. This section is optional.
Line 2: Address Line 1 (Building Number and Street Name)
Make sure you write both the building number and street name on the same line to have a complete Street address.
Line 3: Apartment Number, Room Number, or Employer Housing
If you are staying in an apartment building, hotel or a motel, please fill out the room number or apartment number.
Your U.S. address must be different from your employment address. If your housing address is the same as your employment address, you must enter a room/suite number or “Employee Housing” to this line.
Line 4: City, State, Zip Code
The final line of your address should include the City, State and the 5-digit ZIP Code.
Step 3: Confirm your Employment location: You need to review and confirm the information about the business you work for. Including the business name, address and contact information.
Note: Changes to employment must be approved by InterExchange. If you have more than one job, you must submit additional employment information in your SEVIS dashboard.
How to Notify InterExchange
Within 10 days of arriving in the U.S. you must:
Register with SEVIS by logging in here.
Every 30 Days
Before changing jobs or accepting additional jobs
Your program may be terminated
If you do not follow the directions that are listed above.
Social Security Number
About Your Social Security Number
Since you will be working in the U.S., you will first need to apply for a Social Security card. If you already have a Social Security number you do not need to apply again. Make sure to bring your card with you to the U.S.
Important: You will not be issued a Social Security number if you do not register in SEVIS. You must register as soon as you arrive in the U.S. Participants need to wait at least 3-4 business days after registering in SEVIS before applying for a Social Security number.
Important: After you apply, it may take 4 to 6 weeks for your Social Security Card to arrive. You are allowed to work while you are waiting for your card. If your employer has questions about your eligibility to work because your card hasn’t arrived, ask him or her to call InterExchange at 1.800.621.1202.
If you need to apply for a first-time Social Security card, you must first fill out the Online Social Security Number Application.
After you submit your online request, you must visit your local SSA office in-person with your documentation (see below) within 45 calendar days. Use the Social Security Office Locator to find the closest office. Once your Online Social Security Number Application has been submitted, you will receive a successful submission confirmation page that includes a unique Online Control Number. You will need to take a screen capture of this confirmation page or print it out to bring with you to your local Social Security office. It is important that you have the Online Control Number when you arrive to finish your application in-person.
You must also bring the originals AND two photocopies each of the following documents:
- Photo page of passport
- Visa page of passport with admission stamp
- DS-2019 Form (make a photocopy of both front and back)
- Dear Social Security Officer Letter
Important: When you apply for your Social Security Number (SSN) you will get a receipt letter. Make a copy of it for your personal records. Give the original receipt letter to your employer when you arrive. The receipt is proof that you have applied for a Social Security number.
Remember! Read all instructions BEFORE you fill out the application. Here are some tips:
- It is important to have a valid, dependable mailing address or an ‘in care of’ address to receive the card, before completing and submitting the Online Application. This will prevent you having to visit the SSA office multiple times for non-receipt issues. The post office cannot deliver the card if the applicant is unknown at the address.
- You may use your host employer’s physical address as your mailing address, including the name of your host employer’s business.
- If you are using your U.S. housing address, make sure that your full name is on the mailbox. If your full name is not on the mailbox or if a c/o (care of) is not included for a PO Box Address the Post Office will not deliver the Social Security card.
Applying at a Social Security office
Most Social Security offices are only open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. If possible, you may want to avoid the busy hours from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Social Security Application Process
SSA = Social Security Administration
Bring documents to local SSA office
Documents to Bring
Screen capture or printed confirmation page from the Online Social Security Number Application form that includes your unique Online Control Number.
Original and two copies of
- Photo page of passport
- Visa page of passport with CBP admission stamp
- DS-2019 Form (front and back)
- Dear SSA Letter (given by download)
Call SSA to check status and inform InterExchange.
Checking your application status
After you apply for your Social Security number, we recommend checking on your application status after seven to ten days. If you return to the office at which you applied, take all of your original documents as well as the receipt of application. Checking on your application status can minimize any delays or problems with your application. Your Social Security number may even be available to you prior to your card being mailed out. If you have any questions, please call the Social Security Administration’s toll-free number: 1.800.772.1213.
After you receive your Social Security number
It is your responsibility to notify your employer as soon as you receive your Social Security number. Your employer may ask to make a copy of your Social Security card (they will need the number for tax purposes), but you should retain the original card and keep it in a safe place. Do not laminate your card.
Protect Your Personal ID and Confidential Information
Your Social Security number is a lifelong number that is yours alone. Do not allow others to use your number. Record your number in a safe place in case your card is lost or stolen. Protect both your card and your number to prevent misuse.
If you have any questions or lose your card, please call the Social Security Administration’s toll-free number, 1.800.772.1213, or visit their website. You can also call InterExchange for guidance at 1.800.621.1202.
Social Security Locations
If there is no Social Security office close to your job site, you may consider applying for your number upon arrival in the U.S., in one of the major cities (New York, Chicago, Boston, etc.). If this is the case, you should prepare all documents prior to your arrival. Since people normally apply for Social Security cards near their place of employment, an officer may tell you to wait and apply once you have reached your job site. You may explain that there is no Social Security office near your job site. Therefore, you should apply in your arrival city. If the officer seems unsure about doing this, politely ask for a supervisor or the manager.
To locate the nearest office, check the Social Security Administration’s website.
Working in the U.S.
The jobs InterExchange Work & Travel USA participants accept are seasonal and workloads depend greatly upon the weather. Do not be alarmed if during some weeks the work is slow and you’re not receiving as many hours as usual. Other weeks may be busy with many extra hours. Please be as flexible as possible when it comes to scheduling time off and work shifts. If there are any problems that you cannot resolve by speaking with your employer, please contact the InterExchange office in New York.
All InterExchange Work & Travel USA students are covered by basic minimum wage laws and overtime as it applies from state to state. As of July 24, 2009 the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour. Where state or local law requires a higher minimum wage, the higher standard applies. If an employer deducts housing or transportation from a paycheck, the FLSA requires that such deductions be voluntary and not include a profit to the employer or any affiliated person. Paying a student for the “season” or a set wage for a “week” is not permitted as per InterExchange policy.
If you have a problem with an employer because of underpaid or unpaid wages, or unfair termination of employment, please call InterExchange and we will help put you in contact with the Department of Labor for the state you are living in. The Department of Labor in your state will instruct you how to file a claim against your employer. InterExchange will provide you with assistance and/or any letters you may need for completing a claim form.
Work Dos and Don’ts
Regardless of how much work experience you have had, there are many unique features associated with working in the United States. Sometimes, things that would be considered normal in your home country are not acceptable in American workplaces.
- Come to work on time. Punctuality is very important and repeated lateness can lead to your being fired from your job.
- Treat customers with respect. Smile! A common phrase in American business is, “The customer is always right.”
- Use “Please” and “Thank you” a lot.
- Work quickly and efficiently. Time is money, and workers are expected to have a strong work ethic.
- Try new things: new foods, sights and activities.
- Meet new people. Americans are generally friendly and outgoing and curious to learn about your home country.
- Take care of personal hygiene. Take a shower every day. Wear deodorant. Beards and mustaches should be kept neat. Brush your hair. Long hair should be pulled back.
- Communicate with your boss. Many misunderstandings are simply due to a lack of communication.
- Be patient. You may feel that the American culture and English language are overwhelming at first. Keep in mind that with time, you will learn and understand more.
- Dress neatly and conservatively.
- Practice your English as often as possible!
- Report any problems to InterExchange.
- Expect special treatment. As a co-worker you will be expected to work just as hard as your American counterparts.
- Get fired. Lateness, theft, drinking on the job, drug use or disobeying employer rules are all grounds for dismissal.
- Run away. You are expected to work for the entire time stated on your contract (unless there are extreme circumstances).
- Begin work at a job until it has been approved by InterExchange.
Below are some characteristics typical to Americans. Remember these are general and everybody is different.
- Do not be surprised if your boss is younger than you are, or if your co-workers are of a different race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. America is quite diverse and this is one of its strengths.
- A professional, mature, responsible and respectful attitude is expected at work. Flirting or physical contact is frowned upon and can get you in trouble.
- Life in the U.S. is fast-paced, so time management is important.
- Privacy is thought to be the right of every individual.
- Americans can be very blunt and honest.
- Ignorance about life outside the U.S. is common.
- Americans like to joke, smile, laugh and talk. They like direct eye contact, but do not like to be touched or stand too close to one another while talking.
- Nudity is not accepted in public.
- Many Americans greet each other with “Hi” or “How are you?” People that you see in elevators or in the street will often say “Hello” even though you do not know them.
Job Verification After U.S. Arrival
Before participants may start work at a host business, an InterExchange staff member must confirm the job placements, whether it’s your initial job, a replacement job, or an additional job. For participants who wish to change or add jobs, they must first notify and confer with InterExchange; in these cases, InterExchange must still fully vet the potential host employers before the participant can begin work at the business.
Please be sure to review the prohibited positions section in Finding Jobs before submitting an Employment Offer and Agreement Form.
Follow the steps below for InterExchange to check your job offer in an efficient manner.
Step 1: Employment Offer and Agreement
Once an employer has offered you a position at his/her business, an Employment Offer (job offer) must be filled out by your employer.
Step 2: Submit Employment Offer and Agreement
Step 3: InterExchange Verifies Position
InterExchange will contact your employer to review the Employment Offer details.
Your employer must provide the following documents before InterExchange can approve your position:
- Employer Identification Number (Federal Tax Identification Number)
- Business License
- Workers’ compensation deck sheet or policy’s cover page
InterExchange may ask for an Employer Seasonality Declaration form or revenue/occupancy numbers in order to demonstrate the seasonal nature of the positions.
Your employer can visit our Self-Placement page for employers for more specific information about the hiring process.
NOTE: If InterExchange cannot reach your employer or collect the necessary documents, your job will be rejected.
You will get an email notification when InterExchange approves or declines a job offer that you submit. Remember that you cannot begin work until you receive an approval email from InterExchange!
Important Tax Information
U.S. law requires that you pay federal, state, and local taxes. Generally, your employer will deduct money from your paycheck every pay period. As an income-earning individual, you will be taxed on income from salaries, wages, and tips. Your employer will submit the amount withheld directly to the federal government. Deductions for state and local taxes will vary. Some states do not have a personal income tax; others may tax income as much as 8%. Similarly, local taxes will vary but will be significantly less. If no taxes are withheld from your pay, please contact InterExchange.
You do pay:
- Federal income tax
- State income tax
- Local or city income tax
You do not pay:
- Social Security (S.S.)
- Medicare tax (FICA)
- Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
If you see deductions that say FICA, FUTA, S.S. or Social Security, please notify your employer promptly. If your employer is unable to issue a refund, contact the Internal Revenue Service Center and request IRS Form 843 Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. You will need to submit the completed IRS forms to the Internal Revenue Service Center. Please note: some states may deduct state unemployment taxes, which you are required to pay.
As an Exchange Visitor on a J-1 Visa, you are considered a “Non-Resident Alien” for tax purposes. When filling out the current W-4 form it is recommended that InterExchange Work & Travel USA participants follow Supplemental Form W-4 Instructions for Nonresident Aliens as provided by the IRS.
Depending on how long you work and how much money you earn, you may be eligible for a refund. You should give your employer a self-addressed envelope with your home country address so that they can mail you your tax forms later. InterExchange staff are not tax professionals. If you have tax questions, please consult a tax professional.
How to Read Your Pay Stub
In order to make sure that you are paying the correct taxes, check your first pay stub:
How to understand your Pay Stub
Gross Pay: Total amount earned in the pay period before any tax deductions.
Withholdings: Amount of money the Federal, State and local governments take out of your paycheck
Net Pay: Total amount of earnings you will receive after taxes have been taken out.
YTD or Year To Date: The total amount of earnings and withholdings since January 1st of the current calendar year.
Before you end your program please give your employer your home address or a self-addressed envelope so that they can mail your W-2 Form to you. If you don’t do so, your employer will not be able to send you the necessary forms to file for your tax return.
About Health Insurance
All InterExchange Work & Travel USA students will be covered by accident and sickness insurance during their program in the U.S. InterExchange-arranged insurance is provided through Envisage Global Insurance.
Important points to remember
- This insurance coverage is for accidents and sickness. It is not general health insurance. Not all illnesses are covered by the InterExchange insurance plan.
- Injuries resulting from high-risk activities, such as motorcycle riding or hang-gliding, are NOT covered.
- Illnesses that already existed prior to participation in the program (for example: diabetes, depression) are not covered by this policy.
- Eye exams and dental exams are not covered by this policy, unless the problem is a result of an accident.
- The name of your insurance company is Seven Corners.
- You are insured during your program dates (your DS-2019 dates). InterExchange highly recommends purchasing coverage for your travel period.
- Need to extend your coverage period? Contact the InterExchange representative in your home country or InterExchange while in the U.S.
Before you leave for the U.S.
- Read your insurance brochure
- Print your insurance ID card
Using your insurance while in the U.S.
1. 24/7 Call-A-Doc
Your plan includes access to a virtual telemedicine service. If you have a minor or non-urgent medical need, you can use 24/7 Call-A-Doc to see a doctor or get a prescription from anywhere, at any time using your phone or computer. Get more details.
2. Non-Emergency Care
For immediate care in non-emergency situations, you SHOULD go to a Walk-in Clinic, Urgent Care center or local doctor. Urgent Care and Walk-in Clinics are often the best places to seek medical care as you can walk right in and they require no appointment.
3. Find a medical provider in the UnitedHealthcare (UHC) network:
Online; OR Call the insurance company or InterExchange
Tip: You can also visit a local walk-in clinic or an urgent care center
4. Make an appointment
5. Show your ID card at the doctor’s office
6. Pay your deductible ($150)
7. Ask the doctor’s office to send your medical bills to the insurance company
8. Fill out a Proof of Loss Form and send it to [email protected]
IMPORTANT! You have 90 days from the date of service to submit the Proof of Loss Form to the insurance company. If you submit it late, your claims will be denied and you will be responsible for paying your medical bills.
Watch this video and learn how Exchange Visitors prepare for their arrival in the U.S., how the U.S. healthcare system works, and how students should seek medical care if they become sick or injured. You can also visit the Envisage Global Insurance Student Zone page for more information.
In an Emergency
Call 911 or visit an Emergency Room (ER) at your local hospital. Your deductible for visiting the ER when you are not admitted to the hospital is $350. Use of the ER in case of an injury will not be subject to the deductible.
If you are injured at work, all claims should be referred to your employer’s Workers’ Compensation policy. Please see our overview of Workers’ Compensation insurance policies.
Pay for your prescription medication and submit a copy of your payment receipt with a completed Proof of Loss Form to [email protected] to get reimbursed. Use your Discount Drug Card to save money!
Making an Appointment With the Doctor Over the Phone
Here’s an example of how you might request a doctor’s appointment:
Hello, my name is <Your Name>. I am calling to make an appointment with Doctor <Name of the Doctor>. I have an American insurance plan provided by Seven Corners. My insurance uses the UnitedHealthcare (UHC) provider network and this doctor is listed as in-network. When is the next available appointment for new patients?
Note that some doctors might not have availability to accept new patients. Don’t get discouraged. There are many providers in the network.
Insurance and International Travel
Am I covered under the insurance plan when I travel outside the country?
Your health insurance plan does not cover you if you go on vacation back in your home country and suffer from an accident or sickness. The insurance plan does cover you if you suffer an accident or sickness while on vacation in all other countries.
IEC Health Insurance
How to Use Your Insurance
Safety & Wellness
Health & Wellness
You are in the U.S. to have an incredible experience. You will work hard and it may be challenging, but you will also have a lot of fun with new friends, travel, and adventure! Being in a new environment with a busy schedule can make you more likely to get sick. It is essential that you take care of your health and well-being while you are in the United States. Here are a few tips on staying healthy:
- Exercise three times a week, 20 to 30 minutes per day
- Drink plenty of water
- Sleep at least 6 to 8 hours each night
- Don’t skip breakfast
- Limit consumption of unhealthy snacks, soda, and alcohol
- Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet
- Do not abuse drugs of any kind
- Remember to bring and take any prescribed medications (the cost for prescriptions in the U.S. can be very expensive)
- Visit the doctor if you are feeling sick. (Go to the Emergency Room at the local hospital ONLY if you are seriously sick or injured. If you go to the Emergency Room and you are not admitted to the hospital, you will be responsible for a large co-pay.)
For more information about your health insurance and finding a doctor in your area, please visit our insurance information page.
Your emotional wellness matters. InterExchange wants you to stay healthy while on your program, both physically and mentally. Being emotionally well means being aware of your feelings, accepting your feelings and maintaining a positive outlook even if things don’t go to plan. It is normal to feel overwhelmed as you adjust to a new place and new challenges, but if those feelings persist, the resources below can help you.
- Mental Health for International Students Video
- Common Signs of Mental Health Issues
- Culture Shock & Mental Health
- Tips for Managing Your Mental Health
- Tips for Seeking Mental Health Treatment
- Search for Nearby Counseling Services
If you, or someone you know, needs to speak to someone urgently, please contact one of these 24-hour services:
In general, the United States is a very safe place. You should feel comfortable in your host community. However, it is always a good idea to keep security and safety in mind, especially when traveling after your program has ended. Overall, you will find this country full of warm, friendly people who will enjoy meeting you, sharing their culture with you, and learning about your culture. If you use common sense, you will be able to avoid most difficulties and have a wonderful, safe time in the United States.
Here are some tips for maintaining your well-being and staying safe:
- Do not hitchhike – it is illegal and dangerous.
- Do not accept rides from strangers.
- Do not jaywalk or walk across or along highways.
- Do not jog or walk alone at night.
- Do not carry more money than you will need for the day.
- Do not accept any form of money from strangers.
- Do not carry your passport with you if you don’t need it. Carry a different form of identification, such as your driver’s license or a photocopy of your passport.
- Protect your personal ID and confidential information: Your Social Security number is yours alone. Do not share this number or allow others to use your number. Record your number in a safe place in case your card is lost or stolen. Protect both your card and your number to prevent misuse.
- During local emergencies, obey all warnings and advice from authorities and read communications from InterExchange.
- Internet safety: Don’t respond to emails from strangers or provide personal information over the Internet unless on a trusted website with appropriate security.
- Avoid parks, woods, and remote areas when you are alone, especially at night.
- Be aware of your surroundings when using an ATM. Take extra caution at night.
- Always let someone know where you are going and when you will return. Contact someone if your plans change.
- Always wear a bike helmet and obey all traffic laws when riding a bike. Use lights and reflective clothing at night.
- If you feel you are being followed, cross the street and observe what the other person does. Put space between yourself and the person following you. Pretend to see a friend, even if it is a person you do not know and call out or wave to that person. You should try to attract attention and scare away the person following you. If a store, restaurant, or business nearby is open, go inside and ask for help.
- If you think you are being followed while driving, drive to the nearest police or fire station.
- Remember that cars drive on the right side of the road in the USA.
- Notify the authorities and InterExchange immediately if you are threatened by your employer, colleagues, landlord, or anyone else.
- Do not engage in threatening, immature, unlawful, or antisocial behavior.
- Obey alcohol consumption laws. The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. Underage drinking is illegal.
- Be careful if drinking in a bar or restaurant. Watch your drink at all times, stay sober, and do not leave with anyone you don’t already know.
- Do not get into a car with a driver who has been drinking.
- Be aware of Wilberforce laws that protect you: travel.state.gov/visa
- Know the Signs of Trafficking: Everyone can help combat human trafficking by recognizing potential indicators and reporting suspected cases of human trafficking.
- If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
InterExchange is available 24/7 if there is an emergency. Call our hotline at 917.873.5877.
The U.S. is home to many beautiful beach towns and they’re all waiting to be explored by you! As you soak up the sun and experience American beach town culture during your work and travel experience, you should also know how to keep yourself and your friends safe. Whether you go swimming into the ocean, lake, or swimming pool, be sure to follow these guidelines.
Before You Go
- Never swim alone.
- Know how to swim: If you are not a strong swimmer, have an experienced swimmer to assist you, and use a flotation device such as a life vest, arm floats to help you.
- Weather Conditions: Check the National Weather Service for surf forecasts and important beach related weather alerts. Avoid overexposure to the sun. Make sure you carry sunscreens, hats, and sunglasses to protect you from the UV rays.
- Rip Currents: Beware of rip currents! Rip currents account for 80% of rescues at beaches. Learn how to break the grip of the rip.
- Look for Lifeguards: Never swim alone and always swim when a lifeguard is present. If you don’t swim well, stay in shallow depths and watch for sudden drop-offs.
- Safety Signs: Obey all the safety signs and instructions from lifeguards. Never enter the water if the beach or the swimming pool is closed. When you are at the beach, check the water conditions before entering the water. Look for any warning flags are up or ask a lifeguard about water conditions.
- Designated Spots: Swim in designated spots where there are ropes and buoys. You will avoid weeds, rocky terrain, and other dangers. Be cautious of sudden drop-offs in lakes and rivers.
- Don’t Dive: Do not dive headfirst into the shallow water. Diving in shallow water can cause serious injuries. It is best to enter the water feet first.
- Drink water, not alcohol: If you are out in the sun, stay hydrated during that time. Swimming while under the influence of alcohol is not recommended. It not only impairs your judgment, but also significantly slows your reflexes.
- Help: If someone is in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.Throw the victim something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, inflatable ball.
We want you to take full advantage of being in the U.S. during the winter season and partake in some exciting winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding. Whether you are an experienced rider or if this is your first time seeing snow, you should always follow mountain rules and listen to local ski patrol. Here are some helpful mountain safety tips:
- Get a ski buddy! Never ski alone.
- Know the phone number for local ski patrol.
- Always wear a helmet while skiing. You may be a strong skier, but always be aware of inexperienced skiers around you.
- Never ski out-of-bounds or in the backcountry. These areas are not monitored by ski patrol and are avalanche-prone.
- Know your ski level and pay attention to the difficulty level of each trail.
- Obey all signs and watch your speed. If you ski too fast or ski in an unmarked territory, you may get your ski pass revoked.
- Protect your skin and eyes from the sun by wearing sunblock and UV goggles or glasses.
Be a responsible skier and you’ll be sure to have a great season!
Protecting Yourself From Fraud, Scams and Theft
The InterExchange orientations and support materials provide useful advice on protecting yourself from identity theft and money fraud. As there has been an increase in the number of scams targeting exchange visitors, host employers and international cooperators, please review this information, know your rights, and always be prepared to protect yourself. We urge you to be aware of any attempts to deceive potential program applicants.
If someone you don’t know contacts you and requests your personal information (e.g., by phone, by email, through social media), do not share any information without verifying the person’s identity. We recommend you do the following:
- Do not share any of your personal information without confirming the identity of the person contacting you. Tell the person “I can’t share any information with you at this time, but I’d like to know some information about you…”
- Ask questions about the caller. If a person asks for your information but refuses to share details about themselves, it is unlikely they are contacting you for a legitimate reason.
- Request the following information: first and last names, the phone number they’re calling from, their email address, the company or agency they claim to represent, their badge number or official ID number, and the reason they’re requesting your information.
- Share details about this person with the program staff at InterExchange.
If someone claiming to represent a government agency contacts you and tells you that you must pay additional fees, do not give them any money or credit card information. Call InterExchange or the local police department.
Please also review common fraud schemes on the FBI website and learn how to recognize and avoid scams.
Protect Your Documents
Make two photocopies of all your travel documents in case of emergency or if your documents are lost or stolen. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home. It is always a great idea to let at least one person know exactly where you will be staying and how to contact you in an emergency. Carry the other copy with you stored separately from the originals. Documents to make copies of include:
- Passport ID page
- J-1 Visa
- Hotel confirmation
- Airline ticket
- Driver’s license
- Credit cards brought on the trip
- Traveler’s check serial numbers
If You Lose Your Passport or Visa
If you lose your visa, you can remain in the U.S. for the duration of your authorized stay, as shown on your electronic I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. You will need a valid passport to depart the United States and to enter another country. You will need to contact your country’s embassy or consulate if you lose your passport in the U.S.
Protect Your Valuables
- Check and understand the currency exchange rate before you travel.
- Before you leave, notify your bank, credit card company, or other financial institutions that you are going overseas.
- Avoid carrying cash and consider using traveler’s checks or major credit cards instead (but make sure they are accepted at your destination before departing on your trip).
- Change traveler’s checks only as you need them.
- Do not display large amounts of money when paying a bill.
An imposter scam is when a scammer calls or emails you and pretends to be a government official, your bank, a distant relative, or someone you’ve met online. They ask you for your personal information and request that you wire them money right away. They even threaten deportation if you don’t pay. Here’s what you need to know to avoid imposter scams.
- Your social security number is private, and you should never give it to anyone over the phone or email. Do not carry your social security card with you; keep it in a safe place at home.
- Government officials (like from the IRS) or your bank will not call you asking for money. They’ll send a letter if they need to contact you.
- Do not send money or wire transfers to someone that you do not know.
- You do not need to answer your personal phone if you don’t recognize the phone number. The caller can leave a message, and you can call them back.
- Use secure passwords online.
- Only enter your credit or debit card information on official sites. Check your credit card and bank statements monthly for unapproved charges.
- Learn more about protecting your personal information and watch this short video about IRS imposter scams.
Additional Useful resources:
Natural Disaster and Emergency Evacuation
Your safety is our priority. In the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood or other extreme weather or emergency situation, it is mandatory that you comply with emergency procedures and follow instructions issued by your local office of emergency management.
For the most current information on evacuation notices and to learn what your local area is doing to prepare for an extreme weather event or emergency, visit the website of your local Office of Emergency Management. They can also provide information about maintaining an emergency kit for such situations. Talk to your host employer to get information and guidance on how to prepare for an emergency as well.
Important Information If You Are Evacuated
It is required that you follow local evacuation instructions in emergency situations. Should you be evacuated, make sure to: Take important documents with you. This includes passport, DS-2019 Form, Social Security Card, financial records, plane ticket, checks, credit cards, etc.
Take important contact numbers and e-mail addresses. Make note of the InterExchange office emergency telephone number to call if needed: 917-873-5877.
Contact your family members to let them know you are safe and how you can be reached.
- Stay in touch with your host employer.
- Always follow instructions from emergency management officials.
- The most important thing is to stay safe! If you have an emergency, you can contact us at 917-873-5877
Contact your family members to let them know you are safe and how you can be reached.
U.S. Department of State
Definition of Sexual Harassment in the United States:Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical activity of a sexual nature that makes a person feel offended, humiliated, threatened and/or intimidated:
- The term “harassment” includes, but is not limited to, jokes, slurs, or other verbal, graphic, or physical conduct relating to a person’s race, color, sex, religion, national origin, citizenship, age or disability.
- Where a person, regardless of gender, is asked to engage in sexual activity as a condition of that person’s employment.
- Situations which create an environment which is hostile, intimidating or humiliating for the person being harassed.
Examples of Sexual HarassmentExamples of actions or behavior which are considered sexual harassment include, but are not limited to: Physical Conduct:
- Unwanted physical touching, including patting, pinching, stroking, kissing, hugging, or inappropriate touching (even if it is with someone you have had a relationship with)
- Physical violence, including sexual assault
- Making sexual comments about a worker’s appearance, age, private life, etc.
- Telling sexual stories or jokes
- Making unwanted sexual or romantic gestures
- Asking colleagues for dates or sexual acts repeatedly after they say “No”
- Insulting colleagues based on the person’s gender or sexuality
- Making job-related threats or promising rewards to ask for sexual favors
- Mentioning or threatening rape
- Sending messages by social media, phone or email that have sexual language or images
- Displaying sexually explicit or suggestive material like pictures or videos
- Making sexually-suggestive gestures
- Whistling at people
- Looking at people sexually
- Taking inappropriate pictures or videos against a person’s wishes
Who Can Be Affected By Sexual HarassmentAnyone can be a victim of sexual harassment, regardless of their age, gender or the gender of the harasser. Sexual harassment may also occur between people of the same gender. If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment, below are some steps you can take. What to do if you are a victim of sexual harassment: Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment, regardless of their gender and of the gender of the harasser. Sexual harassment may also occur between people of the same gender. If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment, below are some steps you can take:
- If you feel you are in danger, call 911 immediately
- If you feel safe, tell the person that you do not like the behavior and tell them to stop
- Write down a record of all incidents; Ask witnesses to write down what they saw
- Capture screenshots of text messages or images sent to you
- Tell your sponsor so they can help you determine next steps
- Report the behavior to your manager and/or to the harasser’s manager
- Talk to someone in the HR department (if there is one)
- Ask a friend or co-worker for support and help
- Try to avoid being alone with this person until you can report the incident and seek help
- If you share housing with this person, speak to the housing provider immediately and ask for assistance to avoid living with this person
- Please do not assume the host employer is aware of the problem. Tell your employer about your concerns and/or complaints so they can help you
Sexism, Racism, and Homophobia
- Sexism is the prejudice or discrimination based on a person sex or gender.
- Racism is the hatred, intolerance or negative attitude towards another race or other races.
- Homophobia is the hatred or fear of homosexuals or people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBTQ).
Road Safety in the U.S.
Driving & Biking in the U.S.
If you intend to drive or bike in the United States, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with local, state, and federal laws regarding driving. The best recommendation is to consult the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the state in which you plan to drive. Most U.S. states recognize foreign driver’s licenses, but you should carry your passport with you as well if you’re driving. Please consult the DMV in the state where you wish to drive to confirm the length of validity. Local DMV offices may be found through an Internet search, or by visiting the state’s official DMV website.
We strongly recommend that you obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you leave your home country. (You cannot get one after arriving in the U.S.) Depending on the date you obtained your International Driving Permit, it should be valid in all states for up to a year.
- Cars drive on the right side of the road in the U.S.
- Never drive after drinking alcohol and never get into the car with a driver who has been drinking.
- Always wear a seat belt.
- Stay on marked roads
- Follow posted speed limits.
- Be aware of special weather and road conditions (e.g., snow, fog, flooding and detours/construction)
- Use extra care around school buses, trucks and large vehicles
- Follow parking rules
- Be aware of pedestrians and bicyclists
- Do not text or use your cellphone when driving
- Don’t always trust GPS. Be aware of Road Closed and Bridge Out signs to steer clear of danger.
Foreign Driver’s License (Home Country Driver’s License)
Some U.S. states recognize foreign drivers’ licenses when accompanied by your international passport. In most cases, your license may be valid for up to 4 months after the date you enter the U.S. However, please consult the DMV in the state where you wish to drive to confirm the length of validity and the rules for driving with a foreign driver’s license. The rules vary by state; some require that you have an International Driving Permit and some don’t.
Obtaining a Driver’s License in the United States
In some states, it may be possible to obtain a U.S. license. You will need to contact the local Department of Motor Vehicles in the state where you will be working to find out whether you’re eligible to apply for a U.S. driver’s license. If eligible, obtain a copy of the state driver’s manual from the DMV so that you can learn that state’s driving rules, and study for the written test and the driving test. Ask which documents you need to present to the DMV when applying for a license. These required documents will vary by state.
At a minimum, you will probably be required to show the following documents in order to apply for a U.S. state driver’s license:
- Home country’s driver’s license
- International driver’s license
- Social Security card
- Proof of residency in the state
Motorcycles require a special driver’s license, and many states have laws requiring that you wear a helmet. The accident and sickness insurance provided by InterExchange will not cover you in the event of an accident while you are driving a motorcycle.
Local Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Local DMV offices may be found through an Internet search, or by visiting the state’s official DMV website.
What to Do in the Event of a Car Accident
In the event of a car accident, find out if anyone is injured. If someone requires medical attention, or to report the accident, dial 911 from any phone. 911 is the free direct number for emergency services with the local police anywhere in the U.S. If possible, do not move your car until the police arrive and are able to assess the accident scene. While waiting for the police, exchange the following information with the driver of the other car:
- Name, telephone number, and license ID number.
- License plate number, model and year of the car.
- Registration number and expiration date.
- Name of the insurance company and policy number.
If there are any witnesses, ask for their names, telephone numbers and addresses in the event of insurance disputes. If you have a phone with a camera, take pictures of the damage and accident scene. If you have hit a parked car, you must leave your name, phone number and license plate number on a piece of paper and put it under the windshield wiper, so they may contact you. Also write down the car’s license number and model of the car.
Failure to leave your information or report the accident is considered a crime.
Make sure that any car you drive has auto insurance that will cover you as a driver or a passenger in the event of an accident.
You are responsible for any fines for moving violations or parking tickets. Failure to honor these fines may impair your ability to get a visa to return to the U.S. in the future.
Make sure that your place of work can be reached easily by public transportation, walking, or biking from where you live. If you don’t have access to a car, look at local transportation options like buses and train systems in your area. Plan your travel time to allow enough time to get to and from work easily and safely.
Before traveling by bicycle, review our bike safety poster (PDF), watch this helpful bike safety video, and review the tips below to stay safe!
How to Signal When Riding Your Bike
Use Hand Signals. Tell drivers where you are going.
Be Careful Changing Lanes. Only change lanes if you need to turn. Signal left or right before you change lanes.
If You Feel Uncomfortable Merging or Turning Pull over to the side of the road and wait until the cars have passed.
Please be vigilant about bike and pedestrian safety. Follow the rules of the road as these actions could save your life.
If you need to bike to work, or you ride in your free time, please follow these safety guidelines:
- Always wear a helmet. In many states, this is the law.
- If you ride at night make sure your bike has reflectors and lights on the front and back. (InterExchange offers free bike lights; please contact us directly at [email protected] to request one.)
- Wear bright colors when walking or biking at night.
- Assure bicycle readiness. Make sure your bicycle is adjusted properly.
- Scan for traffic and use hand signals when changing lanes and making turns.
- Obey all traffic laws.
- Never wear headphones while biking.
- Cars and bikes drive on the right side of the road.
- Secure your bike with a lock when not in use.
- Always ride following the flow of traffic.
- Do not ride your bike on busy highways or freeways. In many cities, this is illegal.
- Ride in single file to ensure you are not obstructing traffic. Bicycling side-by-side with another person can be dangerous on the road.
Traveling Outside the U.S.
We know you want to travel and explore new places during your stay in the United States. You can easily travel to other states, including Alaska and Hawaii. However, traveling outside the U.S. is more complicated and requires planning ahead. Please read guidelines below carefully before planning a trip outside the U.S. or to a U.S. territory including Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
During your program you should be able to travel internationally and return to the U.S. without any problem as long as:
- You have a valid, unexpired passport.
- Your J-1 Visa is marked with an “M” under “Entries” in your passport. (This means you are allowed multiple entries to the U.S.)
- Your J-1 Visa is not expired.
- Your DS-2019 Form is still valid.
- If you are returning to the United States, you must reenter the country before your SEVIS end date. Custom and Border Protection will interview all students for admission & eligibility.
- If you travel during your program, you should have a job to return to.
- You have mailed or brought your DS-2019 Form to the InterExchange office in New York for a travel validation signature. Please alert our office that you need your DS-2019 Form signed prior to coming in/mailing it, and allow at least two to three weeks for return service in the mail.
- You check the visa requirements of the country you are traveling to and secure any necessary visas.
- You take your passport, DS-2019 Form, and I-94 card or printout of your electronic I-94 record with you.
- Be sure to check the U.S. Department of State’s website for special travel alerts and advisories.
Travel at the End of Your Program: The 30-Day Grace Period
At the end of your program, you will have a “grace period” of up to 30 days for personal travel after you’ve finished working. Both your DS-2019 Form and J-1 Visa will be expired during this time. If you leave the U.S. during this travel period, you likely will not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. and will be responsible for paying for your own plane ticket home
Visiting Canada (including the Canadian side of Niagara Falls)
Some participants on our programs will need a tourist visa to enter Canada. Please check this website for the most up to date information.
A tourist visa to enter Canada may be obtained by applying in person at a Canadian Consulate or Embassy. Canadian Consulates are located in the following U.S. cities:
- New York, NY
- Buffalo, NY
- Detroit, MI
- Los Angeles, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Washington, D.C.
For phone numbers to the Consulates, you may contact the Embassy in Washington, D.C., at 1.202.682.1740 or call information for the city in which you are interested.
To apply for a Canadian tourist visa, you must submit the following:
- A completed application form
- A valid passport (the Embassy recommends it be valid for a minimum of six months)
- A valid multiple-entry J-1 Visa (valid for at least three months)
- Electronic I-94 arrival record available at www.cbp.gov/i94
- DS-2019 Form
- Confirmed airline ticket to your home country
- Proof of funds (such as a bank statement)
- 2 passport-size photographs (with your name and date of birth written on the back)
- Visa processing fee for single entry or multiple-entry visas
Additional documents may be required; visit the Embassy’s website or call them for more information.
Please note: Canadian Border Control will not issue a visa if there are fewer than 30 days left before your J-1 Visa expiration date. Additionally, you will only be allowed to enter Canada and return to the U.S. before the expiration date listed on your J-1 Visa and DS-2019 Form.
If you will be traveling to Mexico for tourism for up to six months and you have a valid U.S. Visa, it is not necessary to apply for a Mexican visa. You only need to fill out a migratory form that will be provided in the plane or port of entry.
Please note: You will only be allowed to re-enter the United States before the expiration date listed on your J-1 Visa and DS-2019 Form, or the date indicated as your departure date on your I-94 print-out (remember that D/S means “Duration of Status,” which is 30 days after the last date written on your DS-2019 Form), whichever is earlier. Take your DS-2019 Form with you to Mexico.
Please remember, if you are returning to the United States, you must reenter the country before your SEVIS end date. If you travel in the middle of your program, you should have a job to return to.
Visiting Countries Other than Canada and Mexico
If you decide to travel to countries other than Canada and Mexico, you will need to contact each country’s Embassy to find out whether you need a tourist visa. You must also contact InterExchange in advance of your departure to have your DS-2019 Form signed by a responsible officer of InterExchange, indicating that you are in good standing on the program. The DS-2019 Form must be signed by InterExchange before you leave the U.S. for travel!
Note: It is common for cruises to visit international destinations so check with the cruise line for an exact travel itinerary.
Consulates and Embassies in the United States
During your program, you may need to contact your home country’s Consulate or Embassy to let them know you are traveling outside the U.S. Please visit your Consulate or Embassy website for the most up-to-date contact information.
Additional Rules For Traveling
- Always keep your passport up-to-date. You must have at least six months remaining on your passport before it expires in order to re-enter the U.S.
- If you lose your passport during your program and need a replacement, you will not be able to travel internationally and return to the U.S., as your replacement passport will not have a J-1 Visa in it. If you are from a visa waiver country and re-enter the U.S. on a tourist visa, you will not be able to legally continue working with your host employer.
- The decision regarding whether you are allowed back into the United States is not under InterExchange’s control. While Work and Travel USA participants have rarely had problems in the past, there is always a chance you will not be readmitted into the U.S. You will need to take this into consideration when making your decision about whether or not to travel.
Filing Your Tax Return Once You Return Home
All individuals who have earned income in the U.S. are required to file a tax return for the year during which they worked. Your tax return should show your earnings for the previous year, the taxes you paid and the total amount of taxes owed or refunded.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency that collects taxes. You can get forms, instructions, and information from their website.
Step 1: Review Important Tax Information
Read our resource page to understand how your taxes are calculated. Pay attention to the section titled New Tax Information to understand the recent changes in the tax regulations.
Step 2: Get your W-2 Form
The W-2 summarizes your earnings and the taxes withheld from your earnings during the previous year.
At the beginning of the year, your employer will send you a W-2 Form (your employer is required by law to mail your W-2 to you by February 15 following the year wages were earned). Please give your employer your home country address. If you don’t do so, your employer will not be able to send you the necessary forms to file for your tax return. If your employer sent your W-2 to InterExchange, we will send it to your local cooperator in your home country.
Students who participate in the winter program will receive two W-2 Forms: one in February while you are in the U.S. (for your work from the end of the previous year), and one in February the following year (for your work at the beginning of the current year). You will need to file taxes for each calendar year during which you worked in the United States.
Step 3: Complete 1040-NR Form
Upon receiving your W-2 Form, you’ll need to fill out a 1040-NR (Non-Resident Aliens with No Dependents) tax form.
Make sure to review the Instructions for Form 1040-NR to avoid any mistakes.
If the total amount of money withheld from your paychecks was more than you were required to pay the government, they will issue you a check. However, if the amount withheld from your pay was less than required, you must pay the government the amount of tax you still owe.
Your tax paperwork must be received by the IRS on or before April 15th of the year following the year when you earned the wages.
Note: In addition to Federal tax withholdings, most states also require that additional taxes be paid to the state. There are separate forms for state and local taxes. The forms and requirements are different for each state. Your employer should be able to help you locate the necessary forms online.
Step 4: Mail in Your Forms
Once you have completed the forms, mail them to the address on the 1040-NR instructions or use an e-file service, if available.
Before mailing in your tax return:
Keep a copy of all your documents including the tax return and check.
If you are enclosing a payment, mail your payment and the Form 1040-NR to:
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 1303
Charlotte, NC 28201-1303
If you are not enclosing a payment mail your forms to:
Department of Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Austin, TX 73301-0215
If you are owed a refund, you will be given a paper check issued by the U.S. Government. Keep in mind that you may not be able to cash this check in your home country.
You may have the option to receive a refund via direct deposit, but this needs to be done before the refund is issued. In order to be eligible for direct deposit, you will need a U.S. bank account.
Speak with your U.S. bank and your home country bank to determine what options you have.
Please note: InterExchange staff are not tax experts and do not provide tax advisory services. The information provided here is merely a reminder to participants about basic information needed to file taxes and other resources available to them.